“We’re not going to shut it down,” assured Glacier County Commission Chairman Michael DesRosier on Wednesday, Nov. 25, but the Commissioner failed to provide the Cut Bank Airport Authority (CBAA) an answer to their funding dilemma. For the second consecutive year, the more than $85,000 in county mills used to fund the operations of the Cut Bank International Airport were missing from the county tax bill. CBAA officials earlier told the Commissioners if something isn’t done fast to remedy the problem, the airport will run out of money in January.
Chairman DesRosier did not attend the Nov. 16 Commissioner meeting with CBAA board member Rick Geiger and board chair Jim Newman. At that meeting, Vice Chairman Tom McKay told Geiger and Newman the County would conduct an “in-house investigation and rectify the problem so at our next meeting it is settled.”
At the Nov. 25 meeting, Chairman DesRosier stated, “I haven’t anything for you. We’ve turned this over to our Chief Financial Officer and County Attorney to determine where the money is at,” adding the County was going to “hold off until we get more information.”
Geiger responded, “If we don’t have money we will start shutting down in January,” and suggested the Commissioners “do the logical thing” and amend the tax bills to include the CBAA mills.
Geiger continued, “A mistake was made…I’m not really concerned why it happened…” He expressed frustration that “nobody is ever here” referring to the absence of Treasurer Don Wilson and CFO Chancy Kittson. McKay said Kittson was actually in his office. County Attorney Terryl Matt then stated she was listening in on the meeting via the online link.
Commissioner John Over-cast said in discussing the issue earlier with Kittson confirmed, “We made a mistake,” and it will take two to three weeks to send out amended tax bills, if that’s a possibility. Chairman DesRosier said the County Attorney and CFO are working on the problem and “agree we probably can resolve it.”
DesRosier said the Commissioners are taking her legal advice by waiting to make any decision until more information is available.
Matt said she was planning to meet with Kittson, Wilson and Clerk and Recorder Mandi Kennerly on Nov. 30 “to make sure we take the appropriate action.”
The Commissioners had a regular meeting scheduled Dec. 1, but if the needed information wasn’t available, Chairman DesRosier said the Commissioners would hold a special meeting during the week.
“Do you need a commitment from us?” asked DesRosier?
“We need money to operate. We don’t need a commitment. We need money coming in,” stated Geiger.
Newman reminded the Commissioners should the city-county airport be forced to close there would be no air ambulance, no UPS, no operational runways. He stressed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be “coming after” Glacier County and the City of Cut Bank to pay back an estimated $8 million in federal funded projects since the City and County assured the FAA they would continue to operate the airport for 20 years after the completion of the projects.
“Do you see the seriousness of this?” questioned Geiger.
Commissioner McKay ask-ed if the County could lend the CBAA money from the general fund while county officials sorted out the problem. Kittson responded, “You can do it,” adding it would be up to the Commissioners to “identify the money in the general fund” that would be used “until the taxes come in.”
Chairman DesRosier said it would be an “emergency fix we can do. The main thing is to keep the airport open.”
The Commissioners said their goal was to review and approve a decision at their Dec. 1 meeting or “to call a special meeting for any day next week.”